We are not fighting just for ourselves but we’re fighting for all working families.

~ Anna Dziubek, 32BJ Member, New York

FLL Airport Workers Join National Strike; Walk off Job Tonight for 24 Hours

Posted 3/30/16 | Filed in

Workers protesting safety & health concerns, not enough hours to make ends meet, reports of stolen wages

(Fort-Lauderdale) — Fort Lauderdale airport workers for Eulen America and Rio, service contractors for Delta, JetBlue, Spirit, United, and others will walk off the job tonight at 5:00pm to protest safety and health concerns, sweatshop-like working conditions, and inadequate hours and benefits.

These include:

  • Cut hours and staff shortages for those cleaning airplane cabins and doing security sweeps.
  • Inadequate supply of gloves and masks when exposed to blood, fecal matter, and harsh chemicals.
  • No Hepatitis B shots for workers when exposed to blood borne pathogens.
  • Reports of stolen wages.
  • Too few hours and irregular schedules for enough income to make ends meet.

Striking FLL employees will instead attend workshops on health and safety, wage theft, and workers’ rights, as a way to empower themselves in the face of abusive working conditions.

FLL workers were set to strike last week, but decided to postpone the planned work stoppage in light of the horrific tragedy which unfolded at the Brussels Airport and subway. Last week, Brussels baggage handlers and airport security officers saved lives through their heroic acts. Horrific attacks like the one that took place at the Brussels airport highlight the sensitive nature of all work at the airports.

Recent studies show that airport workers who provide critical services such as assisting disabled passengers and who maintain public health standards are too often poorly compensated and have few incentives to stay in their jobs over the long-term. These experts believe such conditions for workers, who could potentially serve as first responders in the case of an emergency, put travelers and passengers at elevated risk.

Workers at other major hubs in New York City, Newark, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Seattle, Chicago, and Boston will also be striking. In Los Angeles, airport workers will rally at LAX to bring attention to the unfair working conditions they face in the hands of bottom feeder subcontractors.

WHAT: Airline workers for Eulen America & Rio, contractors for Delta, JetBlue, United and others, on STRIKE.

 

WHEN:  Wednesday, March 30 and Thursday, March 31.

Wednesday 8:30pm: Picket Line and press availability.

Location: FLL, outside Terminal 2 (btw 2 & 3) on Departures level.

 

Thursday, 8:45am: Press conference and rally with Commissioner Dale Holness, faither leaders, & community groups, followed by march through terminal.

Location: FLL, outside Terminal 2, Departures level (btw Terminals 2 & 3)

 

Thursday, 11am to 12:30pm: Workshops on health and safety, wage theft, and workers’ rights. Press availability with workers.

Location: Holiday Inn Express & Suites (Main Conference Room), 1150 W State Rd 84, Fort Lauderdale

***Spanish speakers will be available for all events***

 

Background:

Last week, Brussels baggage handlers and airport security officers saved lives through their heroic acts. Horrific attacks like the one that took place at the Brussels airport highlighted the value of airport workers, the dangerous conditions that they often work in, and the need for better training and working conditions.

“South Florida is a major transportation hub, said Commissioner Dale V.C. Holness. Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport alone is the fourth fastest growing airport in the U.S., with almost 27 million passengers passing through in 2015. It is crucial that we invest in our workforce and ensure that we create a stable and safe environment for both passengers and workers.

The strikes are taking place amidst record profits for the aviation industry, while many airport workers continue to live in poverty or face abusive working conditions. Last year the airlines raked in more than $23 billion in profits, while outsourcing many of their service jobs to low-bid contractors.

This has led to depressed wages, high turnover rates, and inadequate health and safety standards, which put workers in danger and undermine security and quality of service.

“I don’t really feel like I’m protected on the job,” said Carline Morancy, cabin cleaner for Eulen America a service contractor for Delta, Spirit and others. “I frequently come into contact with objects that have blood on them. The fact that I haven’t been given a Hepatits B shot or that we don’t even have gloves while we’re cleaning makes me think they just don’t care whether or not I get exposed to something dangerous.”

Morancy and other cabin cleaners say that Eulen does not provide adequate cleaning supplies, like gloves or masks, and are not given Hepatitis B shots, even though they come into contact with blood, fecal matter, harsh chemicals, and possible blood-borne pathogens.

Night-time cabin cleaners are also required to do security sweeps of the cabins in order to check for explosives or other threats. However, some workers say that Eulen has cut their hours and give them too little time to properly perform these important tasks. Some workers also feel they are not adequately trained in emergency preparedness if they do encounter a dangerous situation.

“As a front line airport staff member, the work that I do is important and should be valued,” added Morancy. “We need to have the right equipment and be properly trained in order to create a secure and healthy environment. We need good working conditions and adequate pay and benefits so that we want to stay at our jobs.”

After years of earning poverty wages, FLL workers recently won a wage increase when Broward County voted to include subcontracted airline workers in the county’s Living Wage Ordinance. Unfortunately, many workers are now complaining of cut hours, staffing shortages, increased workloads, and even stolen wages.

Rio employees, a service contractor for United, are not being paid the mandated living wage of $11.84 with health benefits, or $13.83 without. Eulen cabin cleaners, who must work extra hours or through their breaks in order to get their work done, say they are not getting paid for the additional hours.

In fact, Ms. Morancy and other Eulen employees reported that their last paychecks were short. Based on their review of their time sheet, it appeared that their hours worked had been altered.

“We are seeing a crisis at our nation’s airports,” said Helene O’Brien, Florida Director for 32BJ SEIU. “Low-bid contractors like Eulen America and Rio lower standards for both workers and passengers. When employees are treated well, compensated fairly, and have a voice on the job, it creates a stable workforce, which benefits everyone.”

The strikes and rallies are part of a national push by airport workers who are uniting with other underpaid workers in the Fight for 15 movement to do whatever it takes to win at least $15, good benefits, and union rights.

This is the third strike for Eulen workers in Fort Lauderdale, who have previously protested alleged unfair labor practices, including threats and retaliation over union activity, as well as poverty wages.

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Around the country, contracted airport workers are coming together in Airport Workers United, a movement of workers and their allies, raising their voices for $15 and union rights to make our airports safe and secure for passengers, employees and our communities. By sticking together, speaking out for change, and going on strike, these workers have won wage increases in Los Angeles, New York City, Newark, Minneapolis, Boston, Philadelphia, and Fort Lauderdale. Today, more than 70,000 workers nationwide have either received wages increases or other improvements, including healthcare, paid sick leave and worker retention policies as a result of the workers’ campaign.

For More Information

Ana Tinsly, 646-331-4765, amtinsly @seiu32bj.org